Epistle to the Ephesians
|Epistle to the Ephesians
Fragment of the Epistle to the Ephesians, circa 250 CE.
The Epistle to the Ephesians, often referred to simply as, Ephesians, is the tenth book of the New Testament. It is a letter purportedly written in ancient Greek around 80-100 CE. The letter claims to be written by Paul the Apostle, but many historians doubt that it was. This letter is in the public domain.
The letter encourages the readers to be submissive to their superiors and rigidly follow the teachings Jesus. The title "Ephesians" refers to the ancient land of Ephesus, which was located in what is now western Turkey.
Although I had read sections of this letter back in the 1990s when I was a Christian, I didn't read it straight through until much later in life in order to better familiarize myself with the New Testament. I found it to be quite awful.
Authorship and Dating
Like most of the books in the New Testament, scholars are critical of the traditional authorship. They suggest that this epistle wasn't written until around 80-100 CE, decades after Paul had died. The writer identifies himself as Paul in 1:1, but isn't Paul, so the document is fraudulent. But, whoever wrote the letter most likely had access to some of Paul's earlier letters because it uses a similar writing style and talks about some of the same topics found in the letters generally attributed to Paul.
Despite the name, it is unlikely that this letter was written to the Ephesians as none of the earliest manuscripts mention "in Ephesus" in 1:1; which was a later addition.
The major themes of the letter include the importance of people agreeing with the position of the church to ensure unity, doing good things rather than bad things, submitting wholly to your superiors, and guarding against evil.
Ephesians contains a modified version of the "Armor of God," originally described in First Epistle to the Thessalonians, where the author describes a metaphorical armor and sword to combat evil (6:10-18). It also contains what some denominations believe to be the Harrowing of Hell (4:9-10).
There are no known original manuscripts. The oldest fragment is Papyrus 46 dated to around 175-225 CE.
- The letter is pretty dull and uninspired. There are a few nice sentiments, but they're very generic, and I found the bulk of it to be quite off-putting.
- The self-congratulatory praise at the beginning goes on a little too long.
- The author uses annoying false modesty common among preachers describing himself as "less than the least of all God's people" (3:8). If you're so pathetic and unimportant, then a rational person shouldn't listen to you.
- There is the usual demand for unreasonable levels of goodness. Don't say anything unwholesome, don't be angry, don't fight, be kind and forgiving to everyone, etc. (4:29-32). And it gets worse as it goes; the author forbids even a hint of impurity, obscene behavior, or even dirty jokes (5:3-4). Yes, we should strive for goodness, but there are times for anger and fighting in order to combat terrible people.
- The author describes himself as being a captive (6:20), but if that's the case, why aren't his supposed captors preventing him from sending letters that badmouth them?
- The evidence points to this letter being fraudulent, which, considering how pious the letter is, makes it especially hypocritical.
- The author has a disgusting love of obedience demanding that people submit to each other (5:21), wives submit to their husbands (5:22), children submit to their parents (6:1), and slaves submit to their masters (6:5). He even suggests that slaves should serve their masters as though they were serving the Lord! (5:7).